Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Canada, 1983. Filmplan International, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation, Famous Players Limited. Screenplay by David Cronenberg. Cinematography by Mark Irwin. Produced by Claude Heroux. Music by Howard Shore. Production Design by Carol Spier. Costume Design by Delphine White. Film Editing by Ronald Sanders. Podcast: My Criterions.
Early David Cronenberg feature that has been credited with predicting the rise of the internet and reality TV. James Woods plays a programmer for an obscure cable channel that specializes in providing audiences with provocative shows, ones with ample amounts of sex and violence (better on the screen than on the streets, he says). His satellite dish pirates a show from an unknown origin called Videodrome, a program that offers a level of prurient content that he has had no previous experience with: sadomasochistic sex! After becoming involved with an opinionated radio host (Deborah Harry, looking stunning), he turns her onto the show and through it discovers her own desire to explore the world of bondage. From there begins a voyage down a dark rabbit hole as Woods uncovers a conspiracy to cause actual physical harm to viewers of the program through the television screen, and then becomes its next possible victim. Cronenberg’s visual panache is already well set in place in this smarmy little film, and the makeup effects are excellent for the time and what I’m assuming was a tight budget. The obscurity of the story is attractive but not always as motivated as it needs to be, but there’s no denying the cultish fun. Sonja Smits is excellent as a woman who is tragically linked to the show at the centre of the plot.